In early November, students in the Hamilton Program in New York City gathered before the iconic red doors of the Bowery Mission for the second time this semester. The Bowery Mission, located on the outskirts of NoLIta (North of Little Italy), has been serving hungry and homeless New Yorkers since 1879. During the Great Depression, the Bowery was considered by many to be Manhattan’s “Skid Row,” flooded with the homeless, jobless, and impoverished. The economic situation within the Lower East Side has improved since then, but only marginally. The glaring inequality among New Yorkers is growing, and many still need help. The Hamilton students were more than happy to lend a hand.
As soon as the students got to the kitchen, they were put to work, preparing for the lunch-time meal service. They tied up their red aprons, threw on their hairnets, and got down to business, dicing veggies, cracking eggs, scrubbing dishes, and taking out trash. The Hamilton volunteers traded stories and laughs with the Mission chefs and kitchen workers and saw firsthand the contribution that the Mission workers make.
When the clock struck 12 at the Bowery Mission, about 70 people had gathered, ready to enjoy the day’s cuisine: rice, string beans, beef stew, meatloaf and a warm New York-style pretzel to top it all off. Fresh fruit and cupcakes from Magnolia’s, a popular Manhattan bakery, lined the dessert table. Each community member who passed through the line had a genuine appreciation for the students’ time and effort. Many of the Mission visitors expressed hope that in years to come, college students might bring solutions to the social and economic issues that plague their everyday lives.